E-Mail Archiving and Grid: A Perfect Match

By By Derrick Harris, Editor

July 23, 2007

When thinking about applications that stand to benefit from incorporating grid technologies, many minds will go instantly to thoughts of complex biomedical simulations or compute-intensive risk models in financial services. Others will think about crash analysis applications in the automotive industry, while others yet might dwell upon mission-critical business apps requiring high SLAs and maximum failover. However, one common place where most minds likely will not venture is into the e-mail archiving space, where grid computing has, until now, essentially been a non-issue. Mimosa Systems is looking to change that.

With its NearPoint 3.0 solution, which is designed for Microsoft Exchange Server environments, Mimosa is bringing a highly scalable grid architecture to a market that has traditionally been dominated by a linear approach, whereby users have to add an archiving solution to each new e-mail server they deploy. Given that the average e-mail server can handle up to 3,000 users, large organizations can find themselves with dozens of servers that don’t communicate well with one another, which causes issues with time and performance when searching for critical records. Considering the increasing importance of e-mail archiving, this approach is rapidly becoming obsolete.

According to Bob Spurzem, senior product marketing manager for Mimosa Systems, the e-mail archiving market is exploding thanks in large part to the need for legal discovery and compliance issues, which has been illustrated by recent scandals centering around large corporations and even the White House. Organizations are being asked to produce e-mail records that can be difficult to find due to deletion, forwarding and other common – if not shady – practices, but, said Spurzem, they are going to be found, it’s just going to take more time, and “time is driving the costs.” It is with this in mind that Mimosa developed its grid-based system, which allows organizations to manage a single backend archive that supports hundreds of thousands of users and can be searched in a singular fashion.

Unlike other solutions on the market, many of which utilize Exchange’s native Journaling feature, NearPoint 3.0 uses a Mimosa-developed technology that is able to copy log files, strip out the data and transport them to the archive, creating a search experience that Spurzem compares to performing a data mining operation within an Oracle database environment. This is important, he explains, because while Journaling can be effective, it can lead to 15-30 percent performance hits as a result of its utilization of Exchange resources. “For some people, that may be just fine, but I’ve talked to many people who’ve said, ‘I’ve got Exchange running servers running at 90 percent CPU, and I can’t turn on Journaling,’” said Spurzem. “It just wouldn’t fly.”

As with most applications utilizing grid architectures, though, while data management and performance in NearPoint 3.0, it is scalability that really drives investment in a given product. The product’s prowess in scalability was noted in a recent product profile by the Taneja Group analyst firm, which wrote, “The ability to dynamically allocate grid resources to what Mimosa terms ‘super-pipelined’ task execution (dependent tasks, such as extraction, classification, and storage, on separate servers) or ‘superscalar’ simultaneous execution (independent tasks, such as PST processing, distributed across multiple servers) makes a NearPoint 3.0 grid tremendously efficient.”

On top of this, Mimosa has made NearPoint 3.0 hot-pluggable, allowing servers to be added or removed as necessary with no downtime, and Spurzem says that future releases will have a master framework that can allocate roles based on demand and other requirements. “Altogether,” continued the Taneja Group in its assessment, “this dynamic pooling and grid reorganization, along with the scalable infrastructure underlying it, allows Mimosa to gather huge numbers of servers into a scalable grid architecture that promises to keep pace with the fastest growing email environments in existence and address the largest data management requirements around.”

Even though beta testers were not able to experiment with the grid features of NearPoint 3.0, this kind of hype was not lost on Mimosa customers. Matthews International Corp., a global manufacturing company with divisions ranging from producing bronze memorials for the death care industry to packaging and graphics, has been using Mimosa for about 18 months, and while senior network administrator Ryan Shipkowski has been “thoroughly impressed” with his experience thus far, he is “anxiously awaiting” the release of NearPoint 3.0 within the next couple of weeks.

Because Matthews International is a publicly traded company, and therefore must adhere to Sarbanes-Oxley requirements, Shipkowski says e-mail archiving is of huge importance, so although he acknowledges that his current Mimosa solution has met and exceeded his expectations in terms of retrieval and discovery, he is looking forward to improved functionality along these lines and he plans to leverage other new features, such as the grid capabilities, as he figures out how to maximize them. “I’m anxious to learn more about how those features work and how we would utilize those to strengthen the product we already have in place,” he said.

Considering that e-mail has become the primary source of communication in many organizations, and considering that compliance laws will not likely be relaxed anytime soon in regard to the archival of electronic communications, the need for next-generation e-mail archiving solutions should be increasingly necessary in order to handle these demands. Mimosa Systems, at least, believes this is so. “E-mail archiving, as an emerging application, has really strong scalability demands,” said Spurzem, “… and to bring [grid] technology to e-mail archiving is very unique and very important to the customers we’ve been talking to.”

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